Love Hunt: The Ain Sakhri Lovers
This statue is the oldest known representation of two people making love in the world. It was discovered in the Ain Sakhri caves near Bethlehem and dates back around 11,000 years. At this time, humans we’re only just learning how to move from hunter-gathering to farming and the Natufian people of the Middle East who made this sculpture we’re some of the first to begin to domesticate sheep and goats, alongside their hunting dogs for catching deer.
Now animal husbandry and breeding means you’ve worked out what men are for in the job of creating new life, and so this phallic looking little figure could have been a ritual object, related to a fertility god or goddess. A divine talisman aimed at helping their fledgling civilization be fruitful and multiply. Or it could just be someone carving themselves a little saucy bit of fun!
It shows two figures sat facing each other with their legs wrapped around each other, one on top of the other. It is impossible to work out the figures’ genders though. We have no idea if it shows a man and woman in the act of reproduction or two men celebrating all things Priapic. Because whatever way you look at the statue, it seems to have been designed to look phallic in some way. Artist Marc Quinn wrote about this piece for the BBC’s Around the World in 100 Objects programme and noted that from every direction you can read the overall image as some kind of reproductive organ. I will leave it up to your imaginations to see what you can see!